Dress For Success

Dress For Success is a non-profit organization here in the Washington DC area – and probably in many other areas as well – with the mission to help women achieve economic success and independence.  One way they try to help is to provide women with attire that is appropriate for women in the professional workplace.  I am not here to endorse this organization – even though I think they have a laudatory mission – nor am I here to disparage them.  I mention them only because the name of their organization, “Dress For Success”, has an interesting connection with a sports story today.  Here is the deal:

  • Dolphins’ QB Ryan Tannehill injured his knee in practice last week and it may require season ending surgery.
  • The Dolphins signed Jay Cutler out of retirement to a 1-year contract for $10M to be their QB for 207.
  • There were reports the Dolphins also considered Tim Tebow as an option for that job had they not been able to reach an agreement with Cutler.

So what does this have to do with “Dress For Success”?  Well, there is another QB out there looking for a team named Colin Kaepernick and given the way his job situation has evolved, the most likely avenue for him to get a job in the NFL is to have a team lose its starter in training camp so that …  Well, that just happened in Miami and he did not get an audition let alone a job.  “Dress For Success” may have had something to do with that.

Last year, a reporter for the Miami Herald was interviewing Kaepernick prior to a game between the Dolphins and the Niners.  The reporter – of Cuban heritage – asked Kaepernick why he wore a T-shirt with the images of Malcom X and Fidel Castro on it when he had a news conference to explain the basis of his National Anthem protest.  You can read the article here – and I suggest that you do so – because I believe it explains why Colin Kaepernick did not get an audition with the Miami Dolphins.

Miami has a large Latino community with linkages to Cuba – and the vast majority of those folks do not consider Fidel Castro to be a worthwhile human being.  In the interview with the Miami Herald reporter, Kaepernick demonstrated that he did not understand that situation nor did he realize that Fidel Castro is like a “third-rail” in Miami.  He may have learned about the intensity of those feelings over the weekend; if he still does not understand them, then he needs to place a telephone call to Ozzie Guillen who can explain it to him with first-hand knowledge.

Kaepernick still has a shot to sign on with the Ravens; there has been talk of front office consideration of that move in the wake of Joe Flacco missing a few days of practice early in training camp.  Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle had a piercing comment on the Ravens and their deliberations last weekend:

“The hilarity continues in the Colin Kaepernick saga. Ravens’ owner Steve Bisciotti, speaking before a group of fans, said of the reports of team interest in Kaepernick, ‘Your opinions matter to us. … We’re very sensitive to it, and we’re monitoring it, and we’re trying to figure out what’s the right tack. So, pray for us.’

Pray for us? I’m no theologian, but if Ravens’ fans are devoting valuable prayer time to asking the Lord to guide this football team in its quest for a backup quarterback, your life and your world are in terrific shape.”

Can I get an “AMEN !!” here?

Speaking of QBs who may be looking for a job, there is a possibility that Skins’ QB, Kirk Cousins may be a free agent next year – after playing on two consecutive franchise tags.  People have speculated that he would be coveted by the Niners and the Bills because their current head coaches had been offensive coordinators in Washington when Cousins was there.  And, of course, anyone who follows the NFL even casually knows that the Browns are always looking for a QB and they will have a boatload of cap room to dangle in front of Cousins.

Just for giggles, I wonder if the dominoes might fall in a different way:

  • Ben Roethlisberger contemplated retirement in this off-season and decided to come back for the 2017 season.
  • Just suppose that was a real soul-searching on his part and that he seriously considered retirement to the point that after one more year of wear-and-tear on his body, Ben Roethlisberger decides to hang up the jockstrap at the end of this season.  I am not predicting this; I said, “Just suppose …”
  • Now, put yourself in free agent Kirk Cousins’ position.  The Niners and the Bills have coaches you know and like – – but their supporting casts, particularly their offensive lines, are less than stellar.  The Browns have a coach who is supposed to be “great with QBs” – – but when push comes to shove, these are still the Browns and that is not good.  And then, there are the Pittsburgh Steelers…
  • With the Steelers, he could throw to Antonio Brown who is at the very least one of the top 5 WRs in the NFL.  With the Steelers, he could hand the ball off to LeVeon Bell who is at the very least one of the top 5 RBs in the NFL.  He would have a competent OL in front of him and a team that normally puts a competent defensive unit together.
  • Cousins is going to make a ton of money wherever he signs a long-term deal and he has already made about $45M on the two franchise tags the Skins gave him.  So, why would the Steelers be a bad choice on his part – – given that Ben Roethlisberger actually decides to retire?

Finally, let me close with another observation from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle:

“Fun fact: Scientists and statisticians say that on the opening day of NFL training camps every season, the total amount of weight lost by NFL players in the offseason exactly matches the total amount gained by other players.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Wrapping Up For The Week…

Earlier this week, I presented a list of sports “stories” that I had heard enough about and expected to get commentary about things I omitted from the list.  If you need or want to refresh your memory about my list, you can find it here.  Then, as I sat down to compile those suggested additions, I came up with a couple more examples of stories that can be put on the shelf as far as I am concerned.

  • Reader Tenacious P posted a comment saying that he had had enough of “NFL Power Rankings by position or by mother-in-law.”  I can accept that.
  • An e-mail response suggested that “MLB trade rumors and NHL season previews” had run their course.  I suspect that our Canadian friends to the north might disagree with that second suggestion.
  • An e-mail response expressed surprise that I did not include “All-Star Games” given my abhorrence of those spectacles.  It was indeed an omission on my part and this is the communication that got me thinking about two additions to my list that should have been there in the first place.

Since I am limiting this compilation to sports stories, I think it is required that I find a sports-themed way to present two new entries to the list of things I have heard enough about.  So, “Upon further review …”:

  1. The NFL Combine:  This “event” is even less interesting than the NFL Draft which made my original list.  Is it really necessary to stage a multi-day event with blanket media coverage to find out how fast a bunch of football players can run a 40-yard dash?  This event has given rise to the boiler plate stories during that week about which players are “rocketing up the draft boards” and other players who did not impress.  Ho-hum!
  2. Where Carmelo Anthony will play basketball next year:  After he gets traded, tell me the parameters of the deal and give me some analysis of how the Knicks and his new team will be better or worse as a result of the deal.  If he stays in NYC, wait until the day before the regular season starts and tell me then about the Knicks’ prospects for the 2017/18 season.  However, unless talks heat up between the Knicks and the Washington Generals, keep your “news” to yourself, please.

Yesterday, Tom Brady celebrated his 40th birthday.  That turn of the calendar prompted a smattering of stories about the possibility that his performance on the football field is about to crater.  Central to a lot of those “analyses” was the fact that the Pats did not trade Jimmy Garoppolo in the off-season leading inevitably to the conclusion that the Pats’ coaches see signs of decline and are preparing for a “changing of the guard” so to speak.  Slow down, Sparky; let’s try to inject a tad of rationality to the discussion here.

  • Tom Brady has been in the NFL since he was 23 years old.  Of course he is on the “back nine of his career”; if that were not the case, one would have to assume he will be playing until he is at least 57 years old and I am certain that even he would admit that playing to age 57 in the NFL is beyond reach.
  • Brady operates as a passing QB; he is not now – and has never been – a “scrambler”.  So, if his performance is about to “fall off a cliff”, have there been indications of that in recent seasons?  I would argue that his performances in the past two years have shown no measurable decline.
  • In 2015, Brady threw for 4770 yards in 16 games (298.1 yards per game).  He led the league in TD passes (36) and had the lowest percentage of his passes intercepted (1.1%).  He was 38 years old.
  • In 2016, Brady threw for 2554 yards in 12 games (296.2 yards per game).  The 4 games he missed were due to the Deflategate suspension.  He threw 28 TD passes in those 12 games which is more per game than he threw in 2015 and his percentage of passes intercepted again led the league (0.5%).  He was 39 years old.
  • Father Time has never missed a tackle.  Tom Brady will not play forever and it is very possible that when his time has come, his performance levels will drop like a rock.  But if someone can see that impending disaster coming based on recent data, I will need some convincing.

By the way, Tom Brady is certainly not the first person to be a starting QB in the NFL north of 40 years old.  It would take far too much time and energy to compile a complete list so let me go with a few names that come to mind who played QB in the NFL into their 40s:

  • George Blanda
  • Len Dawson
  • Brett Favre
  • Warren Moon
  • Vinny Testaverde
  • John Unitas

Finally, since I mentioned Tom Brady above, here is a comment from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times regarding one of Brady’s activities in the last off-season:

“Pats QB Tom Brady, making a visit to Japan, grappled with a sumo wrestler and then posed for a picture with a few of them, TMZ reported.

“The photo made Tom look, shall we say, a tad underinflated.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Rest In Peace, Ara Parseghian…

Ara Parseghian died yesterday at the age of 94.  He played for legendary coach, Paul Brown, with the Cleveland Browns in the 40s; he was an assistant coach under Woody Hayes at Miami (Oh); he was the head coach at Notre Dame in the 60s and 70s leading the Irish to two national championships.  His winning percentage at Notre Dame was .836 and he is properly a member of the college football Hall of Fame.  By all accounts, he was an excellent coach and a good person.

Rest in peace, Ara Parseghian…

There is another coach in the news today – except I would be hard pressed to say that this man is either a great coach or a wonderful human being.  Dave Bliss was the basketball coach at Baylor about 15 years ago; let me just say that his tenure there ended very poorly.  Central to that story is the fact that one of the players was murdered by one of his teammates and Bliss tried to get the team and his assistant coaches to back up a concocted story that the victim was selling drugs and this murder was “drug related”.  You can read the Wikipedia account of this here; just scroll down to the section about “The Baylor Scandal”.  Just a heads up, that is about as polite a story about what happened as one could hope for.

In August 2003, I took issue with Coach Bliss’ actions as well as plenty of other folks who were involved directly or indirectly in the saga.  At the time I wrote that rant, the guilt of the teammate had not been established; that would not happen until 2005 when the teammate plead guilty to the murder.  Nevertheless, you can read my outrage at what went down at Baylor here.

Dave Bliss is in the news today because he just got a new job as the head basketball coach at Calvary Chapel Christian School in Las Vegas, NV.  In addition to those duties, Bliss will be the school’s Athletic Director and will be a teacher at the school.  Let me be clear; I understand completely that a fundamental precept of Christianity is redemption and it has to be clear from the name of this school that it signs onto Christianity and its teachings.  Nevertheless, I would find somewhere else to educate my children than a school that hired Dave Bliss to be a teacher, Athletic Director and head basketball coach.

If that statement leads you to conclude that I am a closed-minded bigot, so be it.  I prefer to think of myself in this dimension as a parent who is concerned about the values that my child learns in school and how those mesh with what I might be trying to teach him/her at home.

Here is a link to a column written in the Las Vegas Review-Journal by columnist Ron Kantowski.  He and I are of like minds on this hiring decision but his column makes the case more eloquently than I can.  I commend this column to your reading.

Since I am talking about things happening in the Las Vegas area, here is a sports wagering item I ran across last week.  According to the Nevada Gaming Commission, the sportsbooks in Nevada won a total of $14.9M on bets involving baseball games in June 2017.  This represents the highest win total for the month of June ever and the trend in the handle for baseball wagering is increasing year-over-year.  MLB stages 2,430 games in a regular season as compared to 256 for the NFL.  The handle for wagers on MLB games is still dwarfed by the handle for NFL games, but if the trend continues, the sportsbooks could have increased ways to separate players from their bankrolls.

And since I mentioned MLB, there is a report that the Toronto Blue Jays have already “alerted” their season ticket holders that prices will be going up in 2018.  This will be the 4th year in a row the Jays have increased ticket prices and the largest increase for 2018 will be 17%.

Looking at the MLB standings as of this morning, one might be tempted to ask why this is happening:

  • The Jays are in last place in the AL East with a 51-57 record
  • The Jays are 8 games out of first place
  • The Jays are 5 games behind in the race for the second wild-card slot.

The Jays have made it to the playoffs the last two years and in each of those seasons they lost in the ALCS; it would seem difficult to call the 2017 season to date anything less than “very disappointing”.  And during a “very disappointing” season, one wonders who thought it would be a good idea to tell season ticket holders they are going to have to pay more to see Jays’ baseball in 2018?

It is not as if the Jays are struggling at the gate to generate revenue.  As of this morning, the Jays have drawn more fans to their home games than any team in the AL; they average 40,124 people per home game.

Finally, since I mentioned sports wagering above, consider this comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha-World Herald:

“The mayor of a town in France ate a rat after losing a bet on a soccer game.  OK, I think we’ve got another politician ready to take an anti-gambling stance.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Another “Stadium Conundrum” In San Diego

Living about 3,000 miles from San Diego, I observed the waxing and waning of the prospects of a new football stadium there pretty much as an intellectual exercise.  Obviously, residents in the area could see the “intellectual aspects” of the question – – but they had other emotional and direct financial concerns that had to take center stage in their decisions.  What I did not realize then – and am only now beginning to be aware of – is that the San Diego St. football team and program may be casualties of friendly fire in the saga that would up sending the Chargers to LA.

The San Diego St. Aztecs have played their home games in Qualcomm Field for a while now; they have a lease to continue to play there through the end of the 2018 season.  What is the big deal, you ask?  Well, that is only two years in the future and there are movements afoot to raze Qualcomm Stadium around that time.  Compounding the problem is that there is no other top shelf football venue in San Diego to absorb the Aztecs’ games.  Holy dispossession, Batman…

As usual, money is at the heart of this issue.  With the Chargers out of the city and their presence in Qualcomm no longer an impediment, the tract of land on which the stadium and its parking lots sit has become one of the most valuable and sought-after bits of real estate in all of So. Cal.  One investment group estimated the value of this tract of land at $13M per acre.  Let’s do some math:

  • A football field is 120 yards long or 360 feet long.
  • A football field is 160 feet wide.
  • The area of a football field is 57,600 sq. ft. or 1.32 acres.
  • If that investment group is correct, the field itself at Qualcomm – forgetting all the other area involved in the stadium and the parking areas is worth $17.2M.

No offense to the San Diego St. football program but that stadium and its attendant spaces is worth a lot more money than Mountain West football is going to generate.  And that is the fundamental reason why San Diego St. football is not in a happy place at the moment.

There are plenty of “plans”/”options” floating around.  One has the school and an investment group “partnering” to build a dual use football/soccer stadium on the site.  When you talk about a soccer stadium in the US, you are talking about something that will seat 30,000 to 35,000 folks.  If San Diego St. aspires to move up in the pecking order of college football, a home stadium of that size is a deal-breaker.  Before you think that San Diego St. has no chance of “moving up”, remember it was only a couple of years ago that it applied to become part of the Big 12 when that conference was thinking about adding new blood.

Maybe the short-term answer is for the Aztecs to play home games at Petco Park – home of the Padres.  That would work until the Padres make it to the MLB playoffs and need to play games well into October.  The team could schedule around home stands if they end in September – – but not if they go all the way to Halloween.  Or is it too fantastical to think about the Padres seriously in relation to the World Series?

Since I am on the subject of college football – sort of – let me comment on some recent remarks made by Alabama coach, Nick Saban, regarding college scheduling.  All he wants to do is to change the landscape of football scheduling and the way bowl game participants are selected.  Other than that, it would be “situation normal” …

In an interview with ESPN folks, Saban said that schools in the Power 5 conferences should only play teams in the Power 5 conferences; that would eliminate many of the sacrificial lamb games where teams like Alabama pay a Division 1-AA team to come to Tuscaloosa for a glorified scrimmage.  On balance, that is a good idea.

He also wants teams selected for bowl games to be done based on some sort of “power ranking” and not based on team record.  This is the way March Madness selections and seedings are done and let’s just say that process is not without controversy.  It is not an exact science by any means.  The good part of that idea is that a football selection committee could create a larger number of interesting bowl games as compared to the current system where individual bowls have contracts with various conferences to supply teams just so long as the teams have won 6 games in the season.  The fact of the matter is that games between two teams at 7-5 – no matter the conferences – are only marginally interesting.

Saban’s idea to reduce the number or patsy games – against Division 1-AA opponents or against bottom feeders in the “strap-hanger conferences” of Division 1-A – would mean playing more games inside one’s conference and/or scheduling far more competitive out of conference games.  As a fan, I like where that idea can possibly lead.

Here is a potential downside.  There are 5 “strap-hanger conferences” I Division 1-A and schools in those conferences can use the big paydays that they get from playing the top-shelf teams even if it means getting humiliated on the scoreboard.  Nick Saban’s idea would consign those teams to a lower economic status – and economics plays a huge role in a successful football program at the collegiate level.  The same goes for those bowl games that I find tedious at best because they involve teams that just are not very good – no matter what their record says.  The fact is that the money from those bowl games is important to those programs and if things move to a “power rating selection process”, some of those schools will be on the outside looking in.  They just will…

Nick Saban is not out to feather his own nest here nor is he thinking along lines that will destroy college football.  I do not like all of his ideas but they deserve consideration simply because it is always possible to take a really good product and make it better.

Finally, sticking with today’s “theme” of college football, consider this comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“My biggest takeaway from Big Ten media days: We need to get Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck to switch to decaf.

“How excited was Fleck at media days? Picture Richard Simmons with his finger in a light socket.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Had Enough Yet?

A regular reader of these rants lives nearby; yesterday, I happened to run into him at a local shopping strip and he thanked me for not writing about LaVar Ball three times a week like lots of other outlets do.  We got to chatting and I explained to him that I think LaVar Ball is a sports media and social media creation; he started out with saying some outrageous stuff about his son being better already than Steph Curry and that he could have taken Michael Jordan back in his prime; when that got him publicity, he escalated the outrageousness and that made him a mainstay for media coverage.  I think he is far more toward the “showman” end of the spectrum as opposed to the “sportsman” end; that is why I rarely write about him.

His latest antic – claiming that a female referee at the Las Vegas AAU tournament was fat, out of shape and incompetent and that she should “stay in her lane” – was beyond outrageous; it was offensive.  The media created LaVar Ball; the twits on Twitter and the “Faceboobs” made much of his stuff viral – not in the infectious sense but in the widespread sense.  Until those regions of modern society tire of his antics, please expect more of them and they will be more outrageous/offensive as time goes on.

But that conversation got me to thinking about the following question:

  • Which recurring sports story/sports topic are you most tired about hearing about?

LaVar Ball has to be on that list – – but he is surely not alone.  I have a few other candidates to suggest for your consideration.

  1. OJ Simpson: When he is released on parole in a few weeks, I have no interest in hearing about any retrospective on his murder trial, his Nevada imprisonment, his life adjusting to freedom, his golf game or his continued hunt for the real killers. I don’t know about you, but I have heard everything I ever want to hear from or about OJ Simpson.  Period…
  2. The NFL Draft:  Howard Cosell said about 35 years ago that Pete Roselle should get and Emmy and an Oscar for staging the most over-rated/over-propagandized annual event in sports.  If Cosell were alive today, he would think the hoot-doodle surrounding the drafts in the 1980s were “the good old days”.  Think about it for a moment folks; the NFL Draft for 2018 is still 9 months away; no college football team has played even a single down in the 2017 season.  Not to worry; there are already at least a half-dozen Mock Drafts for 2018 out there for your perusal.  I would rather gargle with razor blades…
  3. “Snub Stories”:  These are nothing more than a way for writers or sports radio hosts to vent their spleens for a short period of time.  “Snub stories” sometimes take the form of a team being “snubbed” by not being invited to participate for a round or two in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament; another form is the outrage expressed about a certain player who was not named to an All-Star team or to the Pro Bowl.  The “Snub Stories genre” can also extend to teams who were given a spot in March Madness but were seeded far too low by the author’s yardstick.  I guess these stories make the venter(s) feel good for a moment – or else why do they spend the energy on them?  For me, they are tales told by idiots full of sound and fury and signifying nothing.  [/W. Shakespeare]
  4. Tim Tebow’s minor league baseball accomplishments:  I am not a Tim Tebow basher by any stretch of the imagination; in fact, I think he has gotten a very raw deal from a faction of the sports media who like to take shots at him for his overt religiosity.  Personally, I think the proper label for folks who do that is “bigot”; but that is the topic for another rant.  My problem is that I do not care at all about his successes and/or his failures in the minor leagues.  He is selling tickets for his team – and for their opponents when he and his teammates are on the road.  That is a plus for minor league baseball – – and I happen to think minor league baseball is a wonderful entertainment institution that needs all the support it can get.  Nevertheless, I don’t care if he hits a walk-off homerun in a game against the Macon Bacons, the Greensboro Grasshoppers or the Mudville Nine.  Wake me when he plays for the Mets other than in a game in September when the Mets are 15 games out of first place in the NL East…
  5. Tiger Woods’ progress toward his return to the PGA Tour:  For a period of about 10 years, Tiger Woods was the best golfer on Planet Earth and he played the sports media like a Stradivarius.  Then came the “car accident”; the one where his wife – at the time – “rescued him” by beating out the window of the vehicle with a nine iron.  Then came the injuries and the surgeries and the pain-killer addiction issues.  Tiger Woods is no longer even a competitive professional golfer – let alone someone who is presumably in contention to win any tournament he might deign to enter.  His story is on hiatus; it might be a great story of revival and dominance over great odds; it might be a story of tremendous talent wasted and demons that resided within.  Who cares anymore?  I do not until I know if he will ever be a shadow of his former self as a golfer.  As in the case of Tim Tebow above, wake me when he wins a PGA tournament and then is on the leaderboard the next week against top shelf competition…
  6. Colin Kaepernick … :  I do not want to hear from or about Colin Kaepernick until and unless he gets a job in the NFL or until he turns in his retirement papers and dedicates the rest of his life to whatever social justice causes are important to him as time moves forward.  The bottom line is simple here.  He has the talent to make an NFL team.  However, he may not have sufficient talent to offset the baggage he may bring to any locker room because of his actions off the football field.  In the world of sports media, we can surely do without any more “analyses” until he is suited up to play professional football.  OMG, what will the Twitter Twits do without this topic trending…?
  7. Pete Rose:  I have had enough.  I know of his on-field accomplishments; I know of his gambling and his prevarications; I am now being treated to stories of him having sex with a minor child about 40 years ago.  Enough already …

Finally, I have confidence that there are other sports stories that readers here will have had enough of and that they will share them with the rest of us.  Meanwhile, consider this comment from Brad Rock in the Deseret News about another form of “overdosing”:

“A charity hockey game in Buffalo lasted 11 days.

“Reports say a dozen people were sent to the hospital after overdosing on organ music.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Bud Selig Is In The Hall Of Fame

A little less than 5 years ago, I wrote that Bud Selig was an excellent Commissioner of Baseball.  That was a minority view at the time and it is certainly not widely held today.  Notwithstanding that sentiment, Bud Selig is in the Baseball Hall of Fame – as he ought to be.  Here is a link to what I wrote in 2012 about his tenure as Commissioner of Baseball listing his accomplishments, comparing him to the previous Commissioners of Baseball and comparing him to the commissioners in the other major US sports.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. announced his retirement from NASCAR racing earlier this year and recently signed on with NBC as a commentator.  Not surprisingly, NBC says it will use him to do color commentary and analysis for NASCAR events.  However, in the announcement regarding Earnhardt joining NBC, the network said it will also look to include him in “other parts of NBC’s programming outside of racing.”  Here is an off-the-wall prediction:

  • The final NASCAR event for this season will be Sunday Nov.19th at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
  • Earnhardt is widely known to be a rabid Washington Redskins’ fan and NBC will telecast the Giants at Washington game on Thursday night November 23 (Thanksgiving night).
  • I predict Earnhardt will have a speaking role in the pre-game walk-up to the game and will do a “drop-in” to the booth during the game to chitchat with Al Michaels and Cris Colinsworth.

A friend asked me recently if I thought that the movement of 3 NFL franchises in a year’s time might be detrimental to the league.  I said the league might come to regret putting two teams in Los Angeles at the same time but that the league could remedy that “problem” if and when it materialized by moving the Chargers again.  My friend then said that the owners must not have been foresighted when they voted to allow all of these movements.

That sent me to do a bit of research and here is what I believe is the situation with regard to the 29 NFL owners who are not moving their franchises and who voted to approve the movements of the Rams, Chargers and Raiders:

  • After the NFL front office takes its cut of the relocation fees charged to these teams, each of those 29 other owners will pocket somewhere between $53M and $55M.  All those 29 owners had to do was to raise their hands to vote “YES”.
  • I suspect that was all of the foresightedness that most of the owners needed to vote the way that they did…

In international soccer news, the US Men’s National Team (USMNT) won the CONCACAF Gold Cup beating Jamaica in the final game 2-1.  About a year ago, the USMNT was in the doldrums to say the least; they were struggling with early games in the World Cup qualifying rounds and the team played “dispiritedly”.  A change of coaches has seemingly changed whatever ailed the team back then.  In 13 games since Bruce Arena took over, the USMNT has not lost a game.

The CONCACAF Gold Cup is contested every other year and involves the national teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean region.  In terms of using this tournament as a benchmark for FIFA worldwide competition, recognize that the South American teams do not participate.  That means that Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia – all four ranked in FIFA’s Top Ten worldwide – were not involved.  Three other South American teams – Peru, Mexico and Uruguay – are ranked between #10 and #20 in the FIFA rankings.  And obviously, none of the European national teams – good or bad – participated.

This is not to diminish the victory by the USMNT in any way; it is simply meant to provide a bit of context with regard to the CONCACAF Gold Cup event itself.  Winning this tournament does not advance the USMNT to the World Cup tournament to be held in Russia in 2018; earning a slot in that tournament is the next hurdle for the USMNT.  Here is how the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying stands now:

  • There remain 6 teams in the running for 3 guaranteed entry slots in the World Cup Tournament.  A fourth slot is possible based on a play-in game against a team from the Asian Federation.
  • Each team has played 6 games and the USMNT is in 3rd place trailing Mexico and Costa Rica.  For the moment, they lead Panama by 1 point, Honduras by 3 points and Trinidad and Tobago by 5 points.
  • The USMNT has 4 games left in this round; the next one is against Costa Rica and the rest are against the teams trailing them in the table as of today.  In the matches leading up to now, the USMNT lost to Costa Rica, drew with Panama and beat Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago.

Finally, let me close with a soccer note that came from Brad Rock’s column, Rock On, in the Deseret News:

“McDonald’s is reconsidering its sponsorship of next year’s World Cup, due to ethical questions regarding FIFA.

“Meanwhile, FIFA is considering ending the agreement based on the taste of McDonald’s fish sandwiches.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Bouncing Around Today …

Yesterday was all about one subject – – CTE and football.  Today will be more like an anthology – – except not nearly as literate.  Let me begin with the release of results from a recent poll done by JD Power & Associates, a highly regarded polling and market consulting firm.  According to the summary of the data, it was the “national anthem protests” that caused the major portion of the drop in TV viewership for the NFL last year.  Let’s do some math here as we contemplate the interpretation – not the results – of this polling:

  1. JD Power polled 9200 people (a good sample size) who had attended at least one sporting event last year if they tuned in to see less NFL football last season and if so, why did they do so.  (These questions are layered and are addressed to a segment of the population likely to watch NFL games on TV.)
  2. Of the ones who said they watched less of the NFL on TV, the highest response as to why they did so was some version of “Colin Kaepernicks’s national anthem protest”.  That was the answer given by 26% of the fraction that said they watched less NFL football on TV.
  3. That sounds as if the protest had a major effect – – – until you also notice that according to the same JD Power survey, only 12% of this audience said it watched fewer NFL telecasts last year.  So, it was 26% of the 12% who watched less football who did so because of the protest.  That is about 3% and that is a far less dramatic result.
  4. Going slightly deeper into the numbers, 27% of the respondents said they watched more NFL football last year and 62% said they watched the same amount.  So, based on this survey, for every person who watched less NFL last year, there are more than 2 other people who watched more.

The people who believe deeply in Colin Kaepernick and the cause he espouses want very much to be able to say that they and he have “started a movement” and that it has been manifest in diminishing the popularity of the most popular sport in the US.  The problem is that wishing it were so does not make it so.  NFL ratings were down last year significantly up until the election of 2016; from that point forward NFL TV ratings were down only 1% year-over-year.

Two events earlier this week gave those folks who are outraged by Colin Kaepernick’s lack of an NFL job reason to howl at the moon.

  • First, the LA Chargers invited RG3 to come and work out for them but did not extend a similar offer to Kaepernick.  Most neutral observers would agree that Kaepernick is a better QB than RG3, but it was RG3 who “got the call”.  The Chargers did not sign RG3, but they “kicked the tires” …
  • Second, the Chargers then traded for a backup QB sending a conditional draft pick to Buffalo for Cardale Jones.  Let’s just say that Jones’ résumé as an NFL QB is a tad thin.  He has appeared in 1 game; and in that game, he was 6 for 11 for 96 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT.  Colin Kaepernick led a team to the Super Bowl.

Since I mentioned the NFL and its telecasts above, let me now let you in on the way ESPN will structure its programming on Sunday mornings leading up to the NFL telecasts at 1:00PM ET.

  • At 7:00 AM, ESPN will air a 3-hour version of SportsCenter
  • At 10:00 AM, ESPN will air a 3-hour version of its Sunday NFL Countdown; that is an expansion over previous years.  Chris Berman will not be at the helm as he had been for decades and the other studio hosts will be different too.  Samantha Ponder – wife of NFLer Christian Ponder – will be in charge replacing Berman.  The core group of studio hosts will be Matt Hasselbeck, Randy Moss, Rex Ryan and Charles Woodsen.  The standard cast of NFL Insiders at ESPN will make regular appearances here too.
  • At 10:00 AM, SportsCenter will shift from ESPN to ESPN NEWS going until game time.  That means, in effect, there will be a 6-hour SportsCenter produced every Sunday morning.
  • At 10:00 AM, ESPN2 will air a 3-hour program on Fantasy Football.  I understand that I am one of a dwindling minority of people who ignores Fantasy Football completely; nonetheless, I am gobsmacked that there could possibly be 3 hours of relevant commentary on that subject for even one Sunday let alone for 17 of them.
  • At 10:00AM, ESPNU will rebroadcast College Football Final from the day before giving the highlights of college games played on Saturday.  That is a 1-hour program and it will be repeated back-to-back-to-back 3 times taking ESPNU up to 1:  PM.

Let me channel Hank Williams, Jr. here – who will be back on MNF this year after a 5-year hiatus:

  • “Are you ready for some football?”

I read a report citing data from NFL ticket resellers about the average price for a ticket on those sites for various teams.  Looking at the list, it is not surprising to note that the teams at the top are ones who are successful on the field.  The Pats’ tickets are the most expensive on average at $360 per seat.  Then come the Broncos, Falcons, Packers, Seahawks, Steelers … you get the idea.  However, in the “Top Ten” – in the #7 slot to be exact – I found the Chicago Bears.  Since the 2006 season when the Bears lost in the Super Bowl to the Colts, the Bears have been to the playoffs exactly one time.  In the intervening 10 years, the Bears’ cumulative record is 75-85.  Nevertheless, if you want to buy a ticket on the resale market for a Bears’ game at Soldier Field, be aware that the average price is $209 per fanny-receptacle.

Finally, Falcons’ resale ticket prices are through the roof but the team is going to provide low-cost concessions to fans this year.  That news led to this comment from Brad Rock in the Deseret News:

“The Atlanta Falcons are rewarding fans this year by offering soft drinks, bottled water, hot dogs and fries for $2 each, and cheeseburgers for $5.

“This is apparently to counter the taste of Super Bowl LI, which is known among Atlantans as ‘Barf in Your Mouth Day’.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



CTE And The Future Of Football

The topic for today is chronic traumatic encephalopathy.  From now on, I shall refer to it familiarly as CTE.  Depending on your particular mindset, CTE is either:

  1. A church bell tolling to indicate the imminent death of American football as a sport – – or – –
  2. A legal/financial liability that is an annoying burr under the saddle of Roger Goodell, NFL owners and NCAA Athletic Departments.

As with most things, I believe that reality lies somewhere between the extremes.  Let me start with what I think I know about this subject.  CTE is a degenerative brain disease; it manifests itself with symptoms such as dizziness, reduced attention span, memory loss, headaches, disorientation and suicidal thoughts/actions; there is no known way to cure the condition; it is progressive; it comes on as a result of a person suffering repeated blows to the head with or without full-on concussions because of those blows to the head.

Medical science has – currently – a severe limitation when it comes to diagnosing CTE.  The only real diagnosis comes from examining the brain tissue of a dead person; as of July 2017, there is no way to examine a living/breathing person to determine that he/she has CTE in an early stage or in an advanced stage.  That means there is no way to “screen” athletes before/during/after events that involve them taking repeated blows to the head to see if CTE has begun or has advanced.

Medical science has advanced to the point that there can be a post-mortem diagnosis which can then lead to correlation studies which can illuminate the potential dangers of playing football.  What it has done is to provide athletes with sufficient information that they might make informed decisions regarding their participation or continued participation in a sport like football.  Just this morning, the Ravens’ OL, John Urschel announced his retirement at age 26.  Urschel is not your normal NFL player; he was pursuing – and will continue to pursue – his PhD in mathematics at MIT.  Although he made no public pronouncement about the reasons for his abrupt retirement just as training camp began, the fact that a major study related to CTE and deceased football players became public only a few days before makes one suspect how he reached that decision.

The big news earlier this week was that a lab study on the brains of 111 former football players showed that 110 of them had some degree of CTE.  You can read reports of that study in this Washington Post article.  As a person trained in science, I know that correlation and causation are two different things but when the correlation is 110 out of 111 cases, one must sit up and take notice.

There is one aspect of this study that must be recognized.  There is a built-in sampling bias here that favors the correlation of CTE and playing football.  The brains that were examined came from players and or their families when either the player or members of the family had some reason to believe that the deceased had suffered some sort of brain injury.  That does not negate the study in any way; it does mean that this is not a “definitive” study that has explicated the entire situation.

Obviously, CTE has existed in Homo sapiens since the time when early men hit their heads on cave walls; the technology to detect CTE and the understanding of human brain structure and function have expanded since then, but the condition has persisted.  I have written before that people knew that boxers suffered from being “punch drunk” as they got older and people loosely attributed that condition to their history of being repeatedly punched in the face and head.  Football players similarly take repeated blows to the head albeit not in the form of punches.  Former head coach at Michigan State, Duffy Daugherty famously described football this way:

“Football isn’t a contact sport; It’s a collision sport.  Dancing is a contact sport.”

Former NFL players have sued the league successfully seeking compensation to cover the aftermath of their careers based on CTE symptoms.  That suit along with revelations like the ones in the study cited above have led more than a few commentators to suggest that the NFL and American football as a sport are on a downward arc.  That may ultimately be true but let me point out that CTE ought to be present in plenty of other sports as well.  If CTE is going to serve as the Grim Reaper for American football, then what about:

  • Boxing
  • Ice hockey
  • MMA
  • Rugby

Rather than conclude that football and these other sports are doomed to extinction based on the expanding awareness regarding CTE, I believe that the sports will continue to exist and will maintain a loyal fanbase but that there will be fewer athletes in the pool for teams to choose from.  Some parents will indeed refuse to allow their kids to participate in these activities but the number will not dwindle to zero so long as there are ample financial and social rewards for participating in those sports.

I suspect that the NFL – as the sport most closely located in the bull’s eye of this study – will address the results in a properly constructed legal and public relations manner.  I expect them to say inter alia:

  1. The league feels great sympathy for those former players who suffered in their later years and for the families of those players.
  2. The league supports further investigation into CTE and looks forward to a time when there is a diagnostic test for CTE that can be administered easily, and reliably during one’s playing career.
  3. The league has made player safety a priority as knowledge of CTE has expanded and will continue to do so.

The last point on that list needs to be expanded just a bit.  Recalling Duffy Daugherty’s assessment of football as a collision sport, it is not something that can be made “completely safe’.  I do not care what new rules are installed or what level of protective gear is invented and applied to players; football will be more dangerous to one’s brain than chess.  I think football is similar to NASCAR and/or Indy car racing in this aspect.  In both of those motor sports, there have been safety advances over the past 3 decades that have made those sports much safer than they were in the past.  But they are not “completely safe”; and as long as drivers are barreling around a racetrack at 200 mph, they will never be “completely safe”.

Auto racing execs and football execs need to recognize that safety is a real issue and it is important to the future economic well-being of their sport.  They cannot and should not ignore it; nor should they be paralyzed in their thinking by ‘safety fears”.  The CTE study announced earlier this week ought to make a broad spectrum of society take notice and begin to think about sports and athletes and economics and societal norms.  In today’s hyper opposition environment, I fully expect to be labeled as a societal cretin because I provide economic incentive to athletes to go out and injure their brains purely for my enjoyment.  Someone will identify me as akin to the folks who sat in the seats at the Roman Coliseum and watched gladiators fight to the death.

Obviously, I do not see myself that way and I do not think every sports fan should think of himself/herself in that way.  At the same time, I cannot control how everyone else sees me and if it is out of my control, I guess the best thing to do is to ignore those other folks.  Fighting/arguing with them is not likely to be productive; I doubt that I am going to reverse the course of my life regarding how I spend my leisure time.  So, arguing is going to lead to nowhere and I would prefer to do other things than engage in fruitless arguments.

Finally, there has to be a kernel of truth/reality in satirical commentary for it to be relevant.  So, let me close today with an observation by Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald regarding the ardor of some football fans in 2017:

“During the Husker football Fan Fest last Friday a tornado warning was issued for Lancaster County and still virtually nobody left. That one sentence perfectly encapsulates Husker football.

“During the first Husker football Fan Fest free pizza and Chick-fil-A was served. Husker football, free pizza, free Chick-fil-A. I believe the unofficial attendance was 13 million.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Something New Every Day

There are certain things that have happened in the sports world that you assume you will never see again such as:

  1. An NBA player scoring 100 points in a game
  2. Secretariat’s dominance of the Belmont Stakes
  3. A team trailing in the Super Bowl by 25 points in the 3rd quarter rallying to win the game in OT.

I also thought that I would never again see one of José Canseco’s ignominious moments in the outfield – – the one where a ball hit him in the head and bounced over the fence for a home run.  Scratch that off the list as of this morning…  Here is a link to an item on CBSSports.com this morning with a short video clip of a minor league outfielder named Zach Borenstein taking a shot off his noggin and seeing the ball go over the fence for a home run.  Unlike Canseco who was close to the wall on the warning track, Borenstein is a good distance from fence.  It is worth a quick glance.

Also at CBSSports.com this morning is a note by Pete Prisco naming Kirk Cousins as the NFL’s most overrated player.  The gist of the argument here is that Cousins is a “top 10-15 quarterback” in the NFL but that he is being paid more than anyone else in the league this year.  My problem with labeling Cousins that way is that it confuses “overrated” with “overpaid”.  Pete Prisco is correct; Kirk Cousins is not the best QB in the NFL; he is better than the majority of other starting QBs, but he is not at the top of the list nor is he real close to the top of the list.  However, his salary is not based on some hyper-inflated view of his abilities by the Skins’ management; in fact, it is just the opposite.

Kirk Cousins will make about $25M this year because the  Skins undervalued him 2 years ago but still put the franchise tag on him.  That meant he had to be paid at the average salary of the top 5 QBs in the NFL and when the Skins’ still tried to low-ball him this year, the second franchise tag demanded a 20% raise from the previous year’s already inflated figure.  The Skins did not overrate him; they underrated him and are now paying the price for their misappraisal.

After observing the promotional tour for the Mayweather/McGregor fight and reading about some of the subsequent actions/ events, I now understand why Ringling Bros Barnum and Bailey Circus had to close.  When the circus came to town, it meant binging a couple hundred people plus animals along with various mechanical devices just to put on a show.  The Mayweather/McGregor Circus put on their show with 4 clowns – add Bob Arum and Dana White to the two participants and you have the full cast of characters.  There is no way the economics can possibly work out for Ringling Bros. here…

In case you are interested in the wagering aspects for the upcoming fight, here is how the early betting has been going in Las Vegas;

  • When the fight was announced, Mayweather was an overwhelming favorite at “minus-2500” and McGregor was the underdog at “+1100”
  • At the Westgate Superbook so far, the money and the action is heavily in favor of McGregor.  At one point the Super book said that 93% of the tickets outstanding were for McGregor and 75% of the money was on McGregor.
  • After “several low-five figure bets” went down on McGregor last week, the odds fell to their lowest point since wagering opened.  Mayweather was then “minus-550” and McGregor was “+425”.
  • At the South Point Sportsbook a prop bet offered 6-1 odds on McGregor winning by a KO.  According to a spokesperson for the casino, one bettor took that proposition and put $35,000 down on it.

The Jaguars’ DE/OLB, Dante Fowler, made the news last week in a non-football manner.  Fowler was the 3rd overall pick in the 2015 draft by the Jags; he missed his entire rookie year with a knee injury; he appeared in all 16 games in 2016 recording 4 sacks and 23 tackles.  Those are not eye-popping numbers, but they are respectable.  Last week, Fowler was arrested after an “incident with another driver”.  Here are some of the reported “highlights”:

  • The other driver made some comment about Fowler’s driving.  Assuming that actually happened, I believe we can infer from the following that the comment was not any form of praise.
  • Fowler then got out of his car, exchanged words with the other driver, hit the other driver, knocked the other driver’s glasses to the ground and then stepped on the glasses and broke them.
  • According to the police report, this was the point where Dante Fowler channeled celebrity chef, Emeril Lagasse, and took it up a notch.  The police report says that Fowler then “took the victim’s grocery bag, with recently purchased liquor, and threw it in a lake.”

If you are going to go caveman on someone else, I guess it makes sense to go “full Alley Oop” on him.  The “groceries into the lake” seems like a good way to put a punctuation mark on the emotional outburst here.  Nonetheless, I suspect that people who are counselors for others with “anger-management issues” might see this opera with a degree of concern.  Perhaps, Roger Goodell might too…

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald regarding the upcoming college football season:

“The new Oklahoma head coach is Lincoln Riley, 33. You know what you call a 33-year-old at Nebraska? ‘Redshirt freshman offensive lineman’.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



The Clippers In LA …

Billionaires do not call me seeking my advice; not surprisingly, even my kids do not call me asking for my advice.  I’ve grown accustomed to this station in life.  Nonetheless, every once in a while, I rise above my lowly stature as an advisor and presume to tell a billionaire what he should do to spend his money.  Today is such a day.

I read a report that LA Clippers’ owner, Steve Ballmer, is “chagrined” that his team is still the “also-ran” in Los Angeles when it comes to basketball interest.  Yes, the Clippers have had a significantly better record than the Lakers in the time that Ballmer has owned the team; yes, he can properly claim to be the guy at the helm of the franchise that has found a way not to embarrass the team or the city quarterly; yes, he is a visible, enthusiastic and generally attractive owner as opposed to his predecessor.  Notwithstanding the veracity of all those things, NBA basketball in LA identifies as the Lakers – not the Clippers – and it would take at least a decade of Lakers’ bumbling ineptitude even to begin to put the Clippers into the alpha role there.

And so, I have a piece of advice for Clippers’ owner, Steve Ballmer:

  • Forget the idea that you will build yourself a new arena in LA and that edifice will project you and your team into the top-dog position in the minds of LA basketball fans.  What you need to do is simpler – and yet more radical…
  • You need to build yourself a state-of-the-art/knock-your-socks-off new arena in Seattle and move your Clippers there and re-name them the Seattle Supersonics.

First, Seattle is where you were while you made your billions of dollars that allowed you to buy into the NBA ownership society in the first place.  Second, the folks in Seattle will love you to death if you give them back the NBA team they believe they are entitled to have.  Third, as you have rightly noticed, most of the fans in LA will not care that you have left town – assuming that they notice that you are no longer in town.  Fourth, you can afford to build the edifice and own it (Forbes says you are worth something north of $30B.) and reap whatever rewards come from that ownership.  Fifth, if the city turns down your deal to build the venue and provide the city with something other than an expansion franchise, you – and the NBA in general – can tell the fans and the city fathers there to go pound sand; they will get a team on the Twelfth of Never.

Please do not conclude from the preceding paragraphs that anything like this is going to happen at any time in the future.  As I indicated, my advice on these sorts of things is about as useful as a “STOP sign” in the Grand Theft Auto game.

Speaking of NBA teams and ownership thereof, reports say that the Houston Rockets are for sale.  Forbes says the team is worth $1.65B; reports say that the asking price is $2B.  There have been reports that Dikembe Mutombo has been trying to put together an investment group with sufficient resources to make a bid for the team.  If I were to say that this undertaking is a tall order for Mutombo, you would be perfectly justified to groan loudly and tell me to go to my room without supper…

Seattle Seahawks’ CB, Richard Sherman is no stranger to “the headlines”.  One of his more recent utterances that got him there was a statement that NFL players must be ready to go on strike if they want to avail themselves of contracts like the ones being handed out to NBA players these days.  In a way, he is absolutely correct and in another way, he is barking up the wrong tree.

  • As I pointed out in a previous rant, the pool of money that an NFL team has to hand out to players is approximately double that of the money an NBA team has to hand out.
  • NFL teams have to pay 61 players; NBA teams have to pay 15.  Therefore, players in the NFL have less money per player to be allocated.  This is simple math, folks…
  • HOW-EVAH, if the NFL players want the luxury of guaranteed contracts – even if those will necessarily be shorter in duration than current contracts due to the specter of injury in the NFL – they are going to have to negotiate that into the next CBA and that will not come easily if at all.

There is a segment of football fandom that just does not like Richard Sherman probably because he does not comport himself the way other NFL star players tend to do.  That perception/assessment is accurate and those fans are perfectly within the purview of their fandom to think that way.  Notwithstanding any of that, Richard Sherman is completely correct on this issue.  He is not – yet – urging a strike; he is not demanding a strike.  What he has done is to put the NFLPA and the NFL on notice that if/when this issue becomes a sticking point in future negotiations, he is on record now with the idea that this is a worthy goal to seek in a CBA even if it means a players’ strike/lockout/work stoppage.

Obviously, I have no interest in seeing “replacement players” in NFL games any more than I want to see the return of the ”replacement refs” to NFL games.  However, Richard Sherman has laid out fairly clearly here the parameters for one issue in future CBA negotiations and he has done it sensibly and articulately.  There is exactly no reason to be angry with him for doing that.

Finally, here is an observation from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald regarding Big 10 Media Day leading into the college football season:

“Iowa players attending Big Ten media days include Josey Jewell. This is believed to be the highest honor ever for a human named ‘Josey’.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………